Scammers offer computer assistance to access information

Monica Gregory admits she’s no computer whiz, but she knew enough to suspect she was being scammed when a caller claimed her computer was infected with viruses and wanted to obtain her credit card number to sell her a fix.

Gregory wants to warn other unsuspecting residents that a computer scam which has taken place in various countries across the world including Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. has come to the Shuswap.

“They sound pretty convincing, and there’s a lot of scare tactics that your computer is going to be disabled if you don’t purchase this virus protection. But they also sound really concerned and like they want to help you. They are very polite,” she says of the call.

Scammers are using several well-known brands, including Microsoft, to fool people into believing that something is wrong with their computers. The scam typically unfolds in the following manner:

A cold caller, claiming to be a representative of Microsoft, one of its brands or a third party contracted by Microsoft, tells the victim they are checking into a computer problem, infection or virus that has been detected by Microsoft.

They tell the victim they can help and direct them to a website that then allows the scammers to take remote control of the computer.

The cold caller will then spend some time on the computer trying to demonstrate where the ‘problems’ are and in the process convinces the victim to pay a fee for a service that will fix the computer.

In reality, there is nothing wrong with their computer but the scammer has tricked the consumer into believing there is a problem and that paying the fee is the best way to get it fixed. Often they will also push the customer to buy a one-year computer maintenance subscription.

This was typical of Gregory’s experience, who says the caller said he was from Microsoft and wanted a $99 payment for a year of service.

But when they wanted her credit card number, Gregory balked.

Instead of handing it over, she called Doug Lynn at D&G Computers, who advised her it was a scam.

Lynn says he’s had three or four people call him recently about the scam, but says people need to know these calls are phoney.

“Other than your own personal Internet provider, no one is going to call you about your computer. Microsoft doesn’t do it, and neither do any of the other companies. The best thing to do is just hang up.”